We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarai Kelley and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sarai, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My photography business was by no means a random act of events. There were many contributing factors that fell into place over the course of my teen years that curated this love for photography. I am primarily a music photographer, I grew up going to local shows with my brother and family and was immediately drawn to the passion and adrenaline live music brought out of people. Many of my friends began forming bands and creating music so I naturally started to follow them around and capture anything and everything of what they were doing. I loved capturing the people I was closest with doing all of the things they love, creating music and putting it out to the world. I knew I loved the emotion I captured and I loved the environment and I wanted to do this for as long as I could, in 2018 is when I decided to start my own photography business in the music industry. I wanted to create images for bands and artists that captured the authenticity who they are and the emotion that fell into the night.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Photography is much more than just a business to me, it’s a relationship. I don’t just see the artists, bands, and publications I work with as transactional- and I think that is what sets me apart and can be seen through my work. Every musician or press representative or fellow photographer I work with is equally working to accomplish the same goal. I want to learn more about their story and how they fell into the music industry. Relationship building is an important aspect to me in my work because I believe it brings out this authentic feature in photos you wouldn’t see otherwise. Conversations upon conversations allow you to understand more about who a person is, what the meaning behind their work is, and who they are as an artist. Working in the music industry is often a lot of trail and error, while I have made some of my closest and fondest friends in this industry, I have also faced quite a bit of rejection and faced a lot of competition. I like to think this has only made me want to work harder toward my goals and perfect any areas I lack or fall short in when it comes to photography. But intuitionally facing that reaction, especially at such a young age, was really tough and discouraging. I chose to lean into it an grow from it, looking toward the fellow photographers who came before me and pull different snippets of what I really liked about their work and eventually created my own niche that has gotten me so far in my career! I’ve learned that criticism and rejection is often jut apart of life in general, and more often than not, it’s not a personal testament to your work or who you are as an artist- but I still choose to look at it as an opportunity to grow and learn.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I have two different answers to this question, because I love two different styles of Arizona. For a fun city time and a night out, I absolutely love the East Valley- specifically downtown Gilbert. There’s so many unique and delicious restaurants, but my all time favorite thing to do is find hidden speakeasies. Speakeasies are these super rad hidden bars, some require passwords or are hidden within different restaurants. Some of my favorites are in downtown Gilbert, so when I have friends in town, we’ll typically eat at Joy Ride or Zin Burger and find a speakeasy after! I also really love the nature of Arizona, which is something I’ve learned to adore and fall in love with when I moved here for college in 2017. I grew up in San Diego where I would hike all the time, so I was so excited when I found all of these cool hiking trails right here in the valley. Camelback is my personal favorite, if a friend was visiting, I would take them on a sunrise or sunset hike- the view is absolutely amazing!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My family and friends are ultimately the biggest inspirations, role models, and cheer leaders to me- I can’t just name one! Everyone in my life has contributed to my passion and career to some degree and has shaped it for the better!

Website: www.photosbysarai.com

Instagram: photosbysarai

Facebook: photosbyysarai

Other: TikTok: @saraixoxox

Image Credits
Photos By Sarai

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.